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"Why can’t you be normal like that?"


"My parents immigrated from the Philippines, which was (and still is) very Catholic; and from that came a lot of conservativism. And let’s just saaaay that I was not the most technologically savvy in high school...so my parents started asking me more questions and eventually just asked out right ‘are you gay? Do you not like girls?’ I responded, ‘so what if I am?’ That was in high school. And honestly at the time I was just tired of hiding it, I was fed up and I needed to start going my own way.


So I came out.


And even though I didn’t come out through my own volition necessarily, at least I wasn’t hiding anymore. Of course there were many more conversations with my parents, but they centered around ideas like ‘I guess that’s fine but you shouldn’t tell anyone else because it would reflect badly on the family;’ or if a queer character appeared on television, they’d comment ‘why do they have to be like that’ and ‘why can’t they just be normal.’


Then that kind of language leaked into things regarding medicine. Off-hand comments like, ‘oh I wouldn’t want to have a queer doctor look at me while I’m going in for my OB/GYN exam.’ All of which continue to happen with the emphasis that I had to keep who I was under wraps, that I was not normal or reflecting good aspects of my family’s values. I think it was likely rooted from a sense of strong family pride. At the time it was a pretty big strain on our relationship.


Regardless of those experiences, I continued to explore my identity, queer and otherwise. What does it mean to be Filipino? What does it mean to be American? What does it mean carry out a “lifestyle” that is not considered normal? What does that look like? And…what is the intersection of those identities, and how do I interact with the world now?


During this time where I was asking all of these questions, I was focusing a lot on what a lot of people felt about me. I was trying to hide those parts of my identity. I couldn’t be Filipino and be proud about it because others would be like ‘Why? You’re in America?’ But I also couldn’t be too American because my parents would ask ‘Why are you trying to be American when you are Filipino?’ I was also feeling the pressure of ‘Why are you gay/queer when everyone else is straight? Why can’t you be normal like that?’ And so I focused a lot on these questions and how people interpreted me. I put people’s opinions on pedestals, and it was really difficult to get away from that.


In college my thinking started shifting from how others think of me to how I think of myself. Because if I just hate myself all of the time how can I thrive as an individual and be who I want to be, and where I want to go? So I tried to start a chapter of self-love.


In my journey toward medical school I worked in research, I worked in biotech, I volunteered and went to clinics, I worked as a medical assistant. And in terms of struggling in those regards . . . it was a lot of pleasing others along the way. I had to prove that I was (and still am) approachable while still trying to maintain this self-love that I had worked so hard to find. Medicine, as a career, is definitely a journey, and it is one that can be de-identifying for many. As I look back on my journey, I realize that I wanted to force my personality on people so they wouldn’t try to dig deeper into my history. When I was an MA, I would describe these experiences as a lot of “dancing.” I would only get 10-15 minutes with each patient; and within that time, I had to do a preliminary exam and take their history while establishing rapport and making them comfortable in my presence. I had no clue how each individual patient was going to react if they picked up on my queer or ethnic identity. However, overtime I have gotten better about handling those situations. I am definitely learning to give myself some grace and work on understanding how far I have come compared to years ago.


Understanding others is not black or white. It’s not good or bad, or yes or no. It is a process of discovery, and I now try to apply that to everyone. We are all in a different stage of life regardless of age or where we come from. So, I guess what I am saying is that it is important to give grace to yourself and others. And make sure to pass on what you have learned along the way to others.


My advice for those that may be struggling with their identities is this: even if it is difficult, even if it is a hard idea to contend with, you should put the energy into acknowledging every single person that comes into your life. Whether they stay for a long time or if they’re a fleeting interaction. Because at the end of the day, I believe people have biases/practice bigotry because they themselves and their community have not been acknowledged in their struggles as human beings. Give them the chance to acknowledge you, and you will see change in this world." -Patrick, California (he/him/his)


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